Africa has been making its mark in the 2016 travel polls; Lonely Planet naming Botswana as the best country to visit, Nat Geo placing Uganda in their top ten places to see the world’s wildlife, and Kenya, the possible film set for Angelina Jolie’s big screen biopic of palaeoanthropologist, Richard Leakey.
East Africa as a whole also appears to be basking in the limelight – the region in at number three on Lonely Planet’s best value destinations list, while the newly opened Victoria Falls International Airport is set to be a “game changer” for travel to Southern Africa.
Leading safari specialist, Acacia Africa has rounded up its 2016 hotlist, the tour operator’s eight wanderlust options key indicators of where you should head next on the African continent.
1. South Africa took the number one spot based on Acacia Africa’s 2015 destination enquiries and the pleasing exchange rate that makes the country ideal for Brits with a budget sized travel itch.
The England cricket tour will also be a crowd pleaser, a long haul holiday all the more excuse for sporting fans to add an overland expedition or city stay to any test match fixtures. On every global travellers radar, a follow up to Nelson Mandela’s best selling autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” is due to be published posthumously in 2016, the book detailing his years as South Africa’s president.
2. The Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African Rand. Arno Delport, Sales & Marketing Manager for Acacia Africa comments: “A great addition to any tour in South Africa, explore the otherwordly sights of Namibia on a desert dune climb or boulder across the rocks at Spitzkoppe in search of ancient Bushman paintings”.
3. Botswana is clearly one of the frontrunners for next year’s travellers, its 50th anniversary of independence scheduled for 30 September. The country’s flag will be flying high in 2016, and still to be unveiled, there are additional plans for ongoing promotions including fashion shows, carnival market days, cultural festivals and traditional games.
As one of Africa’s last wild frontiers, Lonely Planet put Botswana at the top of their best places to visit in 2016 list: over 17% of its area given over to conservation. A must see, the Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site – walking safaris, wild swimming and sunset mokoro safaris are just some of the off the beaten track highlights.
4. Zimbabwe’s new $150 million dollar Victoria Falls International Airport officially opened in early December, the possibility of new direct flights expected to be a “game changer” for Southern Africa as a region. With the falls at their lowest flow from mid-July through mid-February this is a great time to go white water rafting on the Zambezi, while travellers visiting during the high water season will have amazing views of the falls.
Zimbabwe is said to have the best vistas – the country home to two thirds of the falls frontage and flowing year round. The destination is still making its mark with adventurers, Hwange National Park home to the Big Five and one of the last strongholds for Africa’s endangered wild dogs. Yet another reason to travel, Zimbabwe’s ancient ruins are a major highlight.
5. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is inhabited by more than half of the world’s last remaining 750 gorillas so it undoubtedly deserves to be in Nat Geo’s top ten 2016 wildlife wonders.
“Expect thick jungle, a lot of sweat, and then the miracle of going eye to eye with the very deep gaze of a watchful silverback,” NatGeo Society revealed. While there are no guarantees, this is travel in its rawest form. A bucket list country, Uganda also featured in BuzzFeed’s list of 20 Most Beautiful Countries in the World.
6. Kenya has made it back into Acacia’s must visit list for 2016, governments across the globe easing restrictions on travel to the country. Arno Delport, comments, “It’s all about perception, and with advisories being lifted, Kenya will be one to watch. This month, the timeless ‘Out Of Africa’ movie will commemorate its 30th anniversary. Countless generations have been captivated by the seven time Academy Award winner, and we’re confident that renewed interest in the film will draw people back to Kenya and the Masai Mara.”
In what could be another win win for Kenya, Angelina Jolie is working on a big screen biopic of conservationist and palaeoanthropologist Richard Leakey. “We will make the film and it will be made in Kenya – for sure,” Leakey commented. The script by Oscar winning screen writer, Eric Roth, is described as a ‘sweeping epic’, and tells the story of African-born Leakey, a fossil hunter who helped to find the bones of early man, but later turned his attention to combating elephant and rhino poaching.
News just in, the Masai Mara’s Marsh Pride (stars of many BBC-TV documentaries) introduced the two youngest members of their family to an adoring public earlier this week. Two three-week old cubs emerging from the undergrowth, the pair christened Kamili and Kamageo.
7. After suffering years of unrest, Mozambique is an up and comer on the travel circuit. Heavily geared towards those on a budget, its backpacker tourist hubs, including Tofo, have a laidback allure.
From Vilankulos to Xai-Xai, the turquoise waters are literally teeming with marine life; giant manta rays, turtles, reef sharks, dolphins and the rare dugong on the list. Recent comparisons also suggest diving in the Bazaruto Archipelago rivals that of the Red Sea, but this underwater safari won’t break the bank.
8. East Africa came in at number three on Lonely Planet’s Best Value Destinations for 2016 list. There’s no doubt Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are ripe for explorers hoping to experience some of the world’s great wonders, from gorilla encounters to Rift Valley scenery and stunning palm fringed beaches.
Acacia Africa (020 7706 4700; acacia-africa.com)